Developing Earth-abundant photocatalysts for artificial photosynthesis: from ultrafast electron transfer to solar fuels

Lead supervisor: Professor Julia Weinstein, Chemistry

Deadline: Friday 10 March 2017

Applications for this project have now closed.

Project description

Light-driven reactions in natural systems are responsible for the very life on Earth.

Artificial photosynthesis is a fascinating field of research where “man-made” light-harvesting molecules are combined with nanostructures, and advanced characterisation methods – such as ultrafast laser spectroscopy or electron microscopy – are used to characterise and optimise such “hybrids” to act as photocatalysts.

The ultimate aim is solar-driven molecules which work as catalysts for chemical reactions – including converting CO2 into useful chemicals, or splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen – and do so using sustainable energy source, the Sun.

This project is a part of our broad interdisciplinary programme on photoinduced reactions in condensed phase. The programme ranges from fundamental studies of light-induced processes on the nanoscale using state-of-the-art ultrafast laser spectroscopies, to applied photocatalysis.

We welcome group members with interests in any of these areas.

This project is part of our broad interdisciplinary research programme on all aspects of light-induced reactions.

The broad research questions are:

The specific project will be tailored to the best candidate’s area of interest. It can be a largely synthetic project targeting new catalysts, where we aim to replace Re – the rare and expensive metal – with cheap and available Mn.

Or, the project can be focussed on using spectroscopy to understand the mechanism of action of existing photocatalysts.

You will have a chance to work in our new ultrafast laser center which comprises unprecedented combination of femtosecond methods – electronic and vibrational; and materials characterisation center where we use scanning and tunnelling electron microscopies (SEM and TEM), and Atomic Force Microscopy to characterise catalysts on surfaces.

There also will be an opportunity to participate in design and building of photoelectrochemical cells, and laser spectroscopy set-ups.

You will join a dynamic team of synthetic chemists, material scientists, photochemists, and laser spectroscopists, all working towards the goal of understanding and utilising light-driven reactions.

The range of skills acquired in the course of the PhD will be equally interdisciplinary.

Keywords: solar energy, artificial photosynthesis, photochemistry, laser spectroscopy, photocatalysis, photoelectrochemistry

Subject areas: Energy, Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry , Electrochemistry, Synthetic Chemistry, Optical Physics, Condensed Matter Physics

Funding notes

This four-year studentship will be fully funded at Home/EU or international rates. Support for travel and consumables (RTSG) will also be made available at standard rate of £2,627 per annum, with an additional one-off allowance of £1,000 for a computer in the first year.  Students will receive an annual stipend of £17,336.